chapter  12
Japan: Living in and with Asia
Pages 22

In the eighth century, a Japanese commercial envoy to Tang Dynasty drifted to the Indochina peninsula on their voyage. It is believed to be the first Japanese footprint on Southeast Asia soils (Institute of Asian Cultures, Sophia University 2009). Since then, Japan and Southeast Asian have had a long and close relationship until today. From the fifteenth to the seventeenth century, Japan benefited from the prosperous commercial network of Southeast Asia and there were several Japanese communities in Southeast Asia. In the late nineteenth century after breaking its more than bicentennial-long isolation policy from the Westerners,1 under Japan’s modern Meiji government Japan was the first non-Western nation to accomplish industrialization. Many Asian students and prospective leaders came to Japan to study the modern nation-building process. On the other hand, many Japanese longed for the unknown region of Nanyo (Southward) to stimulate their frontier spirits as well as economic interests (Tarling 2006). In the 1940s during WWII, Japan’s defiant strategy of building the Greater

East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere2 destroyed the regional order ruled by Western colonialism and stimulated nationalism movements in Southeast Asia. However, the new hierarchical order under Japan’s military leadership left huge negative collective memories on Southeast Asian people despite relatively short years. Postwar Japan’s relationship with Southeast Asia started with overcoming this remorseful experience with a sense of atonement. As a result this means the process of building up postwar Japan’s new identity and searching for alternative regionalism. Accepting the Potsdam Declaration in August 1945, Japan was put under

the control of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) led by General Douglas MacArthur. Japan’s new Constitution under US auspices was adopted in 1946 and enacted next year. Most notably its Article Nine stipulated that “Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. In order to accomplish the aims of the preceding paragraph, land,

its military build-up, and with poor indigenous natural resources, postwar Japan had no other means to enhance its national power and international status than becoming a peaceful trading nation. The quick development of the Cold War situation accelerated Japan’s peace

process and regaining of her sovereignty. In 1951 in San Francisco, Japan concluded the peace treaty with 48 countries, in which the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) were not included. At the same time, Japan concluded the US-Japan Security Treaty, which allowed US forces to station in its lands. With the loss of diplomatic contacts with Mainland China and the Korean Peninsula,4 Southeast Asian countries became the only realistic “Asian” partners for Japan. Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru believed that Japan should devote its efforts primarily to quick economic recovery while minimizing armament with security reliance on the US, which was generally known as the Yoshida Doctrine. Postwar Japan’s identity, with a mixture of idealism and pragmatism, was to be found in its three fundamental diplomatic principles in the first diplomatic blue book published in 1956.5 The first was to adhere to the UN centric position as a member of the global society. Second was to associate with “free countries,” which implicitly meant the US camp in the Cold War environment. Third was to maintain its identity as “a member of Asian countries.” These three seemed to be uneasy to reconcile, but it reflected the general aspirations of the Japanese people in those days. Accordingly, Japan’s policy toward Southeast Asia, a newly emerging

region, was formulated in line with the three principles. Prime Minister Kishi Nobusuke paid special and strategic attention to economic and technical cooperation with Southeast Asia. Visiting twice in 1957, he recognized Southeast Asian newly independent states were in the midst of a struggle of nation-building. Kishi, an anti-communist with a personal inclination of Asianism, believed these nations should accomplish economic development and improve people’s living conditions as soon as possible; otherwise they might be easily captivated by communism. From such a viewpoint, he attempted Japan’s strong engagement with Southeast Asian industrial development projects, which contributed to both the local and Japanese economy. Conscious of Japan’s responsibility in Asia, he even proposed the foundation of the Southeast Asian Development Fund. However, the idea did not materialize due to lack of US and Southeast Asian support (Sudo 1992, Hatano and Sato 2007, Hoshiro 2008). It can be said that Japan was not accepted yet as a trustful member by the regional partners and the attempt was too early. It was after joining the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and

Development (OECD) in 1964 that Japan more confidently conducted regional economic diplomacy. Becoming the first Asian member of the organization whose membership is given only to democratic and developed nations, Japan hosted the Ministerial Conference for Economic Development

the originally floated by the US, which hoped that Japan could take a stronger economic leadership role among Asian free block nations as the Cold War strategy. However, in holding the regional conference, Japan adhered more to the Asian member identity than the free block member identity. Japan persuaded non-aligned and neutral countries in Southeast Asia to equally participate in the conference. As a result, Indonesia and Cambodia participated while Burma declined because of its “strict” neutralist position. Upon its success, the first Ministerial Conference for Agricultural Development of Southeast Asia was additionally coordinated in Tokyo. At the same time, Japan prepared to create independent funds exclusively for Southeast Asian nations within the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which was established in 1966 with US and Japanese sponsorship. When ASEAN was formed in 1967 Japan even showed its interest to join it. Thus Japan institutionally committed itself to Southeast Asian regionalism. On the other hand, Japan consistently acknowledged its traditional role of

a bridge between the East and West. In fact, this sense of responsibility was clear in the Japanese delegation’s formal speech upon its accession to the United Nations in 1956: “The substance of Japan’s political, economic and cultural life is the product of the fusion within the last century of the civilizations of the Orient and the Occident. In a way, Japan may well be regarded as a bridge between the East and the West. She is fully conscious of the great responsibilities of such a position.”6 Taking after this spirit, in 1967 Foreign Minister Miki Takeo launched his vision of “Asia-Pacific” cooperation. The key idea was that Japan would cooperate more actively with Pacific countries such as the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand in order to help the economic development of Asian countries. He asserted it was Japan’s moral obligation as the only developed country in Asia to contribute to solving South-North problems on the scale of the Asia-Pacific (Terada 1999b). Commemorating with the centennial Meiji restoration, he made a speech that Japan’s physical conditions, being a small island nation with poor resources and locating next to huge Asian Continent, essentially determined three diplomatic directions.7 First, Japan as a maritime nation should not adopt isolationism but stand as a nation in the Asia-Pacific. Second, with no possibility to be autarkic, Japan can secure its survival only by broader trade with outside nations. Third, Japan and the Asian Continent should not become mutual threats but establish mutually good neighborliness. Miki concluded that history clearly showed that whenever Japan strayed from these right paths, the results had been critical failures. Based on such beliefs, Miki helped organize two informal private forums to study the Asia-Pacific regional standpoints; that first was the PBEC (Pacific Basin Economic Council) meeting among regional business elites in 1967 and the other was the PAFTAD (Pacific Trade and Development) meeting among regional academics in 1968. These attempts to form non-governmental epistemic communities helped to

However, Japan’s emergence with its quick economic expansion in overseas

markets was not necessarily favorably accepted by the international community. Japanese foreign policy with its overly economic emphasis was blamed as neo-mercantilism or economic imperialism (Constantino 1991). Japanese people were often depicted as “economic animals” which seemingly dismissed decency in human behaviors. Facing such criticism, the Japanese government needed to modify its foreign policies to smooth the relationship with regional partners. As elaborated in later sections, in 1977 Prime Minister Fukuda Takeo announced the Japanese basic Southeast Asian policy emphasising wholehearted relationship and equal partnership. Similarly, in 1978, the succeeding Prime Minister Ohia Masayoshi also proposed the progressive version of his Asia-Pacific regional cooperation. It comprehensively envisioned cultural interchanges and mutual understandings in addition to economic cooperation. His study group interpreted Asia-Pacific nations as a “convergence of civilizations,” which aimed to involve more diverse people in the whole region.8 In 1980, Ohira and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser jointly took initiatives in organizing the track two framework of the Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference (PECC) among businessmen, scholars, and public servants in their private capacity. This unique tripartite framework provided the foundation of APEC, a governmental framework formed in 1989. Though APEC was publicly proposed by Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke, the Japanese government fully supported the initiative from behind. To connect Asian developing countries with Pacific developed countries, Japan actively coordinated the reconcilable modality as a mediator between two groupings (Funabashi 1995; Yamakage 1997; Terada 1999b). Thus, in the late twentieth century, Japan gradually forged its new identity

through mainly economic regional cooperation in Asia. Recognizing that Japan was destined to be open and outward-looking to the world for its own survival and prosperity, it cultivated international sensitivity and understanding. Throughout the process, Japan habituated self-checking on others’ perceptions of itself. Japan does not support any particular state-centric or hegemonic regionalism any more. Instead, improving the quality of trustful relationship based on an equal footing became Japan’s essential policy of regionalism.